At the heart of popular Cuban music is a form known as the "son," as much a hybrid of African and European influences as any other artistic tradition you'd likely find on the island. Combining African drum rhythms with European melodies and harmonies, the son in various permutations fills dance halls and saturates the Cuban airwaves. It also resonates through much of our domestic Latin-flavored jazz and salsa.
And to really enjoy the essence of the form, listen to the recently released "Cubania" CD by Son 14 on the Candela label.
As Son 14's name suggests, this is a 14-member band with one driving ambition: to perform the son with numerous innovative touches and unstoppable driving energy.
A quick listen to the 11 tunes on this well-produced disc reveals two standout stars in the band. Trombonist Lazaro Rosabal, who also serves as the band's leader and producer, plays piercing trombone lines, saucily accenting the Spanish lyrics with numerous licks while counterpointing the vocals.
And what a lead vocalist this band brandishes. Eduardo "Tiburon" Morales (whose nickname Tiburon translates as "shark") possesses a hoarse yet tuneful sound, positively bursting with good-natured mirth. If the mythic trickster figure of Afro-Cuban folklore could be incarnated as a human singer, that would be Tiburon. Even if you lack a knowledge of Spanish, Tiburon's boisterously lively singing will suggest sensually rich nights of carnival festivities.
Add to this pair a team of four trumpeters who bring to this danceable music everything from bullfight fanfares to quotes from Iberian classical composers. Three drummers maintain a steady floor of striking polyrhythms over which Tiburon, additional backing vocalists, and the horns arc their memorable sounds.
These sons of the son, with this, their eighth album, and with a full schedule of international touring, celebrate the ongoing artistic vitality stemming from a unique musical mix of the old world and new.